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The MunrosThe Munros
Aonach air Chrith from the west
Aonach air Chrith from the west
©Scottish Mountaineering Trust H.M. Brown
Country: Scotland
Location: Between Loch Cluanie and Glen Shiel
Accommodation: Cluanie Inn is a great place to stay (and handy!). Youth Hostel at Ratagan (2 kilometres west from Shiel Bridge). Shiel Bridge has a camping ground and the nearby Kintail Lodge.
Transport: Buses run along the glen.
Maps: Landranger Map 0033: Loch Alsh, Glen Shiel & Loch Hourn
Trip Date: 1 July 1993
Introduction

One of the best (and longest) ranges in Scotland is the South Glen Shiel Ridge extending for 14 kilometres from the shores of Loch Cluanie over into Glen Shiel. It's northern flanks are incised by a series of great rocky corries while the south flanks are more gentle and grassy in their descent into Glen Quoich. The ridge contains a total of seven Munros allowing a fit hillwalker to really boost their tally. This strenuous trek really needs a long summer day and clear weather - remember to take plenty of water as there is little on the lofty ridge. It is more usual to split the Munros into the eastern four and western three over 2 days.

The four Munros on the eastern half of the ridge are:
Creag a'Mhaim (rock of the large rounded hill, 947m),
Druim Shionnach (ridge of the fox, 987m),
Aonach air Chrith (trembling hill, 1021m) and
Maol Chinn-dearg (bald red hill, 981m).

The problem with doing either the entire ridge or just half of it is arranging for transport. In theory you can walk the entire ridge from Loch Cluanie to the bridge near the site of the 1719 Battle of Glen Shiel in between the morning and evening buses down the glen. But if you miss the bus then you are stuck 14 kilometres away from your starting point. Luckily the road is well travelled and so there is a chance of hitchhiking back. My suggestion is to leave your car at Cluanie Inn, catch the morning bus up to the bridge and walk back in the reverse direction to the SMC Munro Guide description. In my case I was staying at the Ratagan Youth Hostel on Loch Duich which meant a 2 kilometre walk to Shiel Bridge village, the morning bus down to Cluanie Inn, doing the eastern half of the ridge, walking 4 kilometres along the road back to the inn and a great meal before taking the evening bus back over to Shiel Bridge.

For some reason I did not take any photos on this day. While I remember that the clouds were especially thick on the way down (about 10 metres visibility) from the last Munro, I think that the first summit was relatively clear and there were some nice "alpine" meadows. Maybe I was running out of film.

Route

Start at the Cluanie Inn and walk along the A87 road to the old road between Cluanie and Tomdoun. Turn south down this road past an area where camping seems to be permitted (ask at the inn) and over a bridge between the two lobes of Loch Cluanie. Walk down the road for about 3 kilometres, passing the track to Cluanie Lodge, to the bridge over the Allt Giubhais stream. From over the bridge a barely formed path heads a little bit upstream before veering south up the slopes and soon fading away. Continue south over trackless but not too rough terrain and climb steadily to gain the crest of a ridge. This leads you to the SW and then S up into a tiny corrie (Coirean an Eich Bhric). Gain the crest of the corrie's eastern ridge and head up a spur almost directly to the summit of Creag a'Mhaim - easily avoiding the crags marked on the map.

If you really must have a path to follow then continue along the old road from the bridge to pick up a stalker's path that climbs Creag a'Mhaim along its SE ridge. This however adds 4-5 kilometres to the day.

Turn your back on the summit and drop back down broad grassy slopes (past the uphill route) to the first col. Climb again to the summit of Druim Shionnach with a markedly narrow stretch of ridge just before the flat summit is reached. With the grassy slopes to your left and the abrupt rocky ones to your right, navigation along the entire ridge is made fairly easy. Just don't walk north until you get to the right summit!

Turn slightly south of east (but not too much) for the descent from Druim Shionnach's summit and head down a broad ridge towards a bump on the narrower crest to the east. The three kilometres between Druim Shionnach and Aonach air Chrith are easy with only a couple of bumps to climb over before the final gentle ascent onto the third Munro of the day (about 120m up over 500 metres). Beyond the summit, the ridge is much narrower (see the photo at the top of the page) but there are still no difficulties. Expect to be at the cairn on top of Maol Chinn-dearg within 5 hours of departing Cluanie Inn.

Descend down the Druim Coire nan Eirecheanach (the north-east ridge from the summit). This is steep and narrow at first with the crags to your left forming a reliable guide. Within a kilometre the gradient eases and the rocky crest gives way to grass and pleasant walking. The ridge broadens out and you meet a good stalker's path that zigzags down to the level (and moist) ground next to the headwaters of the River Cluanie. On the banks of the Allt Coire a'Chuil Droma Bhig there is a junction with another path that heads back up the north side of the corrie. Cross the stream and walk up to the A87 road. This leaves a nice little 4 kilometre walk back to Cluanie Inn and a bit of refreshment.


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